July in Oregon History: Odds and Ends

July: Oregon Odds and Ends

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Portland Professional Wrestling

In July 1883, the Oregonian announced a “grand athletic tourney” at Portland’s Mechanics Arena. Among other activities, “the sciences of Greco-Roman and Scotch back-hold wrestling will receive a practical demonstration by the champion of the world, Donald Dinuie, Portland’s greatest athlete, and against him will be pitted one worthy of his efforts.” The event appears to be the city's first professional wrestling match.

It was not long before the tournament at the Mechanics Arena and other, similar events provoked questions about the sport’s propriety. On August 7, 1883, the Oregonian commented: “It has been asked…whether it would be proper for ladies to attend the wrestling match…and whether the exhibition will not be distasteful to persons of refined feelings? In answer, it may be said that ladies attended the wrestling contests in San Francisco in large numbers....There should be no breach of decorum and those who admire the display of physical strength, endurance and skill will no doubt be well entertained.” Thus did professional wrestling take its place as a regular if not highly regarded attraction in Portland and other Oregon locales.


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Oregon Country Fair

Founded in 1969, the Oregon Country Fair, originally called the Oregon Renaissance Faire, is a self-sustaining annual gathering held on the second weekend of July in Veneta, about fifteen miles west of Eugene along the Long Tom River. It is a celebration and exposition of alternative lifestyles, products, and creative expressions. About 3,000 people attended the first fair; organizers estimate approximately 45,000 people attend the current fair each year. 


Archibald Pelton (1791-1814-1815)

Fur trader Archibald Pelton was murdered in the early days of Astoria, and the trial of those accused of the crime is sometimes cited as the first murder trial in Oregon.

James remembered Pelton as having a peculiar face, especially eyes that "resembled those of a bear.” One day, while Pelton was checking traps, James reported, “he was attacked by a large bear, which…stood over him with his eyes fixed on his face as if observing his features; Pelton screamed and yelled in a most unearthly manner, and his new acquaintance, as if frightened by his appearance and voice…growled, and then walked off.” James added, whimsically, that Pelton figured his “bearish eyes” drove the grizzly away.

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Bigfoot (Sasquatch) legend

Bigfoot is a large and mysterious humanoid creature purported to inhabit the wild and forested areas of Oregon and the West Coast of North America. Bigfoot is also known as Sasquatch, an Anglicization of the name Sasq’ets, from the Halq’emeylem language spoken by First Nations peoples in southwestern British Columbia. Most people who believe in Bigfoot’s existence, or claim to have seen one, assert that they are hair-covered bipeds with apelike features up to eight feet tall that leave correspondingly large footprints. They are generally characterized as nonaggressive animals, whose shyness and humanlike intelligence make them elusive and thus rarely seen, though some wilderness travelers claim to have smelled their stench or heard their screams and whistles.

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Two Bits, the World War II Lookout Dog

A persistent fox terrier named Two-Bits earned a brief measure of national fame while spending the winter of 1942-1943 at the Siskiyou Mountains' isolated Whisky Peak Lookout in the Rogue River National Forest. Called a "war hero" by the press for his service and endurance at the lookout, Two-Bits became the subject of front-page newspaper articles across the country, and his story was told in a children's book about famous animals.


Bobbie the Wonder Dog

"Bobbie the Wonder Dog" of Silverton was the canine hero in a story that, in the 1920s, became a national sensation. On a February day in 1924, the two-year-old scotch collie-mix dog appeared on the doorstep of his owners, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Brazier. What amazed them was that they had not seen their dog since he disappeared six months earlier from a car trip in Indiana. Bobbie—mangy, scrawny, feet worn to the bone—appeared to have walked back the entire way by himself.

Champagne Riot of 1866

The Civil War brought political trouble for Oregon’s Southern-sympathizing Democrats, and Republicans in Douglas County had control of the courthouse. On December 25, 1866, Samuel Culver, John Fitzhugh—the young, pro-South leader of local Democrats—and three other men, all likely inebriated and definitely armed, curtailed their Christmas libations at Goode’s Mill and rode through the dark to the Unionists’ dance at Joseph Champagne’s house in French Settlement, near Roseburg. Fitzhugh and his kin, like other pro-slavery Democrats in the region, had been inflamed by accusations of disloyalty, even “treason,” from local Republican politicians and editors. Uninvited and unwelcome at the dance, the five men soon made their hostile intent evident by refusing to remove their hats and “dancing in an insulting manner.” Culver hit Bennett across the face with a revolver. Pulling out his derringer, Fitzhugh fatally shot the dance-floor manager. During the brawl, one of Fitzhugh’s companions was shot to death, and several men suffered knife wounds. 

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Copperfield Affair

On January 2, 1914, Oregon Governor Oswald West declared martial law on Copperfield, , a community of about eighty people on the Snake River in eastern Baker County. It was a bold move praised by opponents of liquor and gambling but considered an abuse of executive power by others. West acted on a petition signed by fifty Copperfield residents alleging that saloons sold alcohol on Sundays and to minors and that they were open all night to illegal gambling. They also complained that the city council was composed mostly of saloon owners and their employees and that their appeals to Baker County Sheriff Ed Rand and District Attorney C.T. Godwin had gone unheeded.

On January 2, 1914, West’s private secretary, Fern Hobbs, and five militiamen arrived by train in Copperfield. To welcome them, the town was festooned with bunting, and a hundred people reportedly turned out to greet her, including a welcoming committee of bouquet-bearing city councilmen. On behalf of the governor, Hobbs presented all city councilors with resignation papers to sign. On the advice of James Nichols, an attorney in Baker, they declined.

Florence Whale Explosion

On November 9, 1970, a forty-five-foot, eight-ton sperm whale washed ashore near Florence. In addition to the stench and the possibility that the body would burst, local officials were concerned that people curious about the carcass might climb on it and fall in. The Oregon State Highway Division was called in to remove the whale. After consulting with U.S. Navy and munitions experts, Assistant District Highway Engineer George Thornton decided to treat the carcass as a boulder and to use dynamite to dislodge it.

Edmund Creffield and the Brides of Christ Church

In 1903, Edmund Creffield, a thirty-three-year-old German immigrant and former Salvation Army captain, persuaded about twenty Salvation Army soldiers in Corvallis to join his church, the Brides of Christ. According to news reports, Creffield preached that one of his followers was destined to be the mother of the second Christ, that he needed to purify them by laying his hands on them, that they rolled while almost nude, that they practiced “free love,” and that mothers were debauched in front of their children. In January 1904, a group of men attacked Creffield, tarred and feathered him, and ordered him to leave town.



Turkey Rama

In 2014, McMinnville’s annual Turkey Rama marked its fifty-third anniversary. Unique in the nation, the event celebrates Yamhill County’s turkey industry, which in 1986 accounted for more than 90 percent of Oregon’s turkey production. McMinnville hosted the first Pacific Coast Turkey Exhibit in 1938, a one-day affair with activities and prizes. Each year, the top turkey breeders were recognized, and there was a competition for who had raised the biggest and best turkeys. By the late 1940s, the Turkey Exhibit was one of the largest industry celebrations in the nation.

Voodoo Doughnut

Voodoo Doughnut is an independently owned business in Portland and Eugene known for its off-kilter concoctions and unusual business philosophies. Owners Kenneth “Cat Daddy” Pogson and Tres Shannon opened the flagship store in 2003 on Southwest Third Avenue in Old Town Portland. A second store, Voodoo Doughnut Too, is located on Northeast Davis Street, and Voodoo Doughnut Tres opened in Eugene on East Broadway in June 2010. A fourth store opened in Denver, Colorado, in 2013. The original store is located in Portland’s old Skid Row near West Burnside. From the start, the shop was open all night, attracting bar-goers after last call who lined up on Third Street to buy doughnuts with names like the Voodoo Doll, the Dirt Doughnut, and the Old Dirty Bastard. Pogson and Shannon, having taken a crash-course in doughnut-making in southern California, experimented with ingredients such as breakfast cereal, Tang, bacon, peanut butter, and crushed Tums. The city health inspectors stopped the sale of Voodoo products containing over-the-counter medications. 


Ivan Hathaway Jones

Hathaway Jones was proud to be Oregon's biggest liar. While others occasionally made the claim, no other Oregon storyteller captured the public imagination like Jones did. His tales have appeared in books, oral histories, Works Progress Administration files, Web sites, and folk festivals—even though he rarely traveled beyond the Rogue River.

Born of Oregon Trail pioneers, Jones first heard European-style tall tales, called Münchausen, from his grandfather Ike Jones, who had arrived in Oregon from Ohio with a wagonful of lies about fish, skunks, snakes, and bears. He found work in the mines at Blossom Bar on the Rogue; but by 1898, he had a job with the newly expanded mail service hauling packages by mule from Dothan to Illahee—and stopping at almost every cabin for coffee and some lies.


Nimrod O’Kelly

In 1852, Nimrod O'Kelly was convicted of murder in Oregon in the first officially recorded homicide case before the Oregon Supreme Court. At the age of sixty-five, O'Kelly came to Oregon on the Overland Trail in 1845 and staked a one-square-mile land claim in the heart of the Willamette Valley. On May 13, 1852, he shot and killed Jeremiah Mahoney in a quarrel over boundaries. He was found guilty of first-degree homicide despite his pleas of self-defense and defense of property and was sentenced to be hanged. O'Kelly went to the gallows three times: the third execution was canceled by Governor John Wesley Davis, who commuted the sentence to two years imprisonment. The seventy-four-year-old O'Kelly, without guard, voluntarily reported to the Oregon territorial penitentiary in Portland. 

Leonard Wallulis

Leonard Wallulis was one of the most colorful lumberjacks in Oregon history, putting on Paul Bunyan demonstrations and winning contests in front of thousands of spectators. He made his living working in the woods of the Oregon Coast at a time when a timber faller's speed was the crucial determinant in making a good day's work—speed that contributed to both high rates of production and increased physical danger. Wallulis personified the skilled logger of Oregon's highballing era before hard hats and chainsaws.


Royal Rosarians

In 1911, a delegation of ten businessmen represented Portland  at Seattle's Golden Potlatch Festival. On the train ride home, the men agreed that Portland needed an official body to promote the Portland Rose Festival, and Portland in general. About a hundred men responded to the invitation to become Royal Rosarians. The organization's mythical traditions, including annual knighting ceremonies at the International Rose Test Garden, are inspired by English history. The group makes its largest public appearance at the annual Grand Floral Parade. Much of the pomp and pageantry of Rose Festival is due to the efforts of the Rosarians. They march alongside each float for the length of the parade route and serve as escorts for the Queen of Rosaria and her court.

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Benson Bubblers

At the turn of the twentieth century, logging magnate Simon Benson was reportedly tired of his loggers drinking alcohol to excess while in Portland. To quench their thirst, he decided to install a number of continuously running water fountains. Benson donated $10,000 to the city for what would become known as Benson Bubblers; a city ordinance in 1912 provided for twenty fountains.

The Benson Bubblers were constructed from bronze and originally cost $500 to cast. The first fountain was installed at Southwest Washington and 5th Avenue in June 1912. Within a year, all of the fountains had been constructed and installed. The water was—and still is—piped from the Bull Run reservoir.


Mill Ends Park

The world's smallest park is located in Portland at the intersection of Southwest Naito Parkway and Taylor Street, near the Willamette River. Finding the park may be difficult, since it is disguised as a traffic circle on a median in the middle of the parkway. Mill Ends Park was the creation of Dick Fagan, a columnist for the Oregon Journal, who wrote a column called “Mill Ends,” a loggers’ term that refers to pieces of wood left over from the milling process. In 1946, Fagan watched from his office window as a traffic median was being constructed on Front Avenue (now Naito Parkway). One raised concrete bed had a hole in the middle for a traffic light. The median was eventually finished, but the traffic light was never installed, leaving a hole in the concrete that was soon filled with weeds and trash. One day, as Fagan told the story, he looked out his window and saw a leprechaun digging in the hole. Fagan ran downstairs, dashed across the street, and caught the leprechaun. According to Irish lore, if you catch a leprechaun, he has to grant you a wish. Fagan wished for his own park, but he never specified where or how big the park should be. The leprechaun granted his wish and gave Fagan the hole in the traffic median as his own personal park.

State of Jefferson

In all of American history, only two states have been formed from older states that were already admitted to the Union:  Maine (from Massachusetts, in 1820) and West Virginia, during the Civil War. In 1941, however, some residents of northernmost California and southwestern Oregon promoted the idea of a separate state. Believing that their largely rural region was not receiving its fair share of federal defense and state public-works money, their publicity-seeking "secession" movement gathered steam to form a forty-ninth state, the State of Jefferson.



Oregon Vortex (House of Mystery)

The Oregon Vortex and House of Mystery, located on Sardine Creek in Gold Hill, is one of Oregon’s oldest and most original examples of Roadside Americana. Opened to tourists in 1930, the attraction is the earliest documented mystery spot or gravitational hill in the United States—a place where bubble levels, tape measures, yardsticks, balls that roll uphill, and plumb lines are used to demonstrate the phenomena.

Port Orford Meteorite Hoax

The Port Orford Meteorite has captured the imagination of Oregonians for well over a century. Although the meteorite remains an object of speculation, the scientific consensus is that the “find” was a hoax. Nevertheless, the persistence of the meteorite story has become a part of Oregon history. In 1856, the U.S. Department of the Interior hired John Evans to conduct a geological reconnaissance of southwestern Oregon. Starting at Port Orford and traveling northeast through reportedly rugged terrain, Evans reached the Willamette River, collecting specimens. He donated to the Boston Society of Natural History in 1859. While examining Evans’s collection, Harvard chemist Charles Jackson found that several of the small specimens were fragments of a pallasite, an extremely rare type of meteorite. Evans reported hat he had hammered off pieces of rock from a partially buried boulder that lay exposed on a grassy slope near the summit of a place he called Bald Mountain, about forty miles from the coast. Roy Clarke, a geologist at the Smithsonian, concluded that Evans’s samples are actually from the Imilac meteorite field in the Atacama Desert of coastal Chile and that Evans’s claim was a hoax.

Critical Mass in Portland

Critical Mass is a monthly event that asserts bicyclists' right to ride in the streets and celebrates the bicycle as a form of transportation. The idea is for riders to take over city streets, with anywhere from a handful of cyclists to hundreds participating. In Oregon, the phenomenon is concentrated in the cities of Portland, Eugene, and Corvallis; however, rides have taken place in other cities, including Beaverton and Bend.

Vortex I music festival

During the war-hot summer of 1970, thousands of young people began streaming toward Clackamas County's Milo McIver State Park to attend Vortex I, a state-sponsored rock-music festival. Ed Westerdahl, chief of staff to Governor Tom McCall, had selected the 847-acre site, some thirty miles southeast of Portland. The park provided all the advantages that Westerdahl sought—a rural setting, proximity to Portland, and easy driving distance from Interstate 5. The festival was strategically planned to attract young anti-Vietnam war protestors who otherwise might descend on Portland to disrupt the American Legion's annual convention, which would begin on Sunday, August 30.


Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, a spiritual teacher who developed a substantial international following in Pune, India, decided in 1981 to relocate to the United States. He and his chief lieutenant, Ma Anand Sheela, visited the 64,000-acre Muddy Ranch in southern Wasco County and decided that it was the perfect place for their planned community. Within two years, the community had roughly 7,000 residents and the appurtenances of a regular town, including a water system and a police force. Oregonians greeted the development with much bemusement, some support, and rapidly growing distaste. The last sentiment was exacerbated by the in-your-face attitude of many adherents, their largely successful efforts to close the community to the press, their increasingly prominent displays of weaponry, and the Bhagwan's apparent self-indulgence in the form of dozens of Rolls Royce automobiles. The settlement appeared to outsiders to be an uncomfortable mixture of serious religious community, manipulative cult, and a big summer camp for adults.

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Animal House (film)

National Lampoon’s Animal House, one of the most successful American film comedies of all time, was filmed in the Eugene area in the fall of 1977. The producers needed a campus setting for their story of the disreputable Delta Tau Chi fraternity and the mayhem it creates in 1962 at fictional Faber College. Universal Studios approached the University of Oregon in September 1977. University President William Beaty Boyd instructed Director of University Relations Muriel Jackson to negotiate with the studio, and an agreement was signed on October 4 to allow filming on campus in return for $20,000 and a commitment that the university not be identified in the film. Universal Studios also made agreements with two fraternities to use their houses. The Eugene Half-way House, between the two fraternity houses, became the derelict Delta fraternity house. City officials in Cottage Grove, twenty-three miles south of Eugene, agreed to close down Main Street for three days to allow filming of the climactic homecoming parade scene.

The General (film)

Buster Keaton's masterpiece and one of the greatest silent movies of all time was filmed in the Cottage Grove area in the summer of 1926. The General is a Civil War tale, the fictionalized account of an attempted hijacking of a Confederate train called the General by Union spies in 1862. Much of The General was shot east of Cottage Grove on the rail lines belonging to the Oregon, Pacific and Eastern Railroad. Chase scenes, sometimes involving three trains, were filmed by a camera mounted on a flatcar running on parallel tracks. The climactic scene in the movie required the construction of a 215-foot trestle bridge across the Row River, near the tiny community of Culp Creek. In the film, the hero, Johnny Gray, sets the bridge on fire after he crosses it in the General, and the pursuing train, the Texas, crashes into the Row River in a spectacular fiery collapse. The scene cost an estimated $42,000 to shoot and is said to be the most expensive scene in silent film history.

Oregon Pony

The first steam locomotive in the Pacific Northwest—the "Oregon Pony"—was used in the early 1860s to portage steamboat passengers and goods past the Cascade Rapids, a rocky and turbulent stretch of the Columbia River now drowned by Bonneville Dam. Steamboats provided transportation on the Columbia between Portland and mining areas in Idaho and the Columbia Plateau.San Francisco's Vulcan Iron Works built the little wood-burning engine, only 14.5 feet long, which arrived in Oregon in 1862. It replaced the horses and mules that pulled small rail cars 4.5 miles over iron-reinforced wooden rails for the Oregon Portage Railway. 

Columbus Day Storm

On the morning of Friday, October 12, 1962—Columbus Day—a massive storm hit the coast of northern California. The storm had originated several days earlier in the Pacific Ocean, about four hundred miles north of Wake Island. Re-energized by a combination of unusual meteorological conditions, the storm moved north with the gathering force of a Category 3 hurricane. Originally named Typhoon Freda by meteorologists and called the Big Blow by many, it may have been the most powerful extratropical cyclone ever to hit the western United States.

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